Eight years as a person who stutters. Oh how many memories—happy memories, heartbreaking ones, and everything in between—those years hold! At roughly eleven years old, I said goodbye to my old voice. I said goodbye to mindless fluency and spontaneity in communication. No longer could I rapidly interject into a conversation. No longer could I casually ask someone a question without long, painful hesitations first. Little did I realize what a wild ride lay ahead of me. Looking back, I wish I could have reassured my distraught pre-teen self that everything would be okay. Sometimes I still have to repeat this gentle reminder to myself. If only I had known then what I know now…
One thing that remains the same, however, is my and my family’s bewilderment as to what could have happened in my body. Of course, God ultimately allowed this to happen, but human curiosity can’t help but yearn to know what physically changed. It’s certainly not normal to suddenly start stuttering after eleven years of perfect fluency. Although many people who stutter share a similar “sudden-onset” story, most people who stutter began stuttering as soon as they learned to talk. And those who did have a sudden onset of stuttering can usually point to a medical event such as head trauma or stroke as its cause. Yet, at eleven years old, I was as healthy as could be. As I perused the memories of my life, nothing seemed to justify such a drastic change. I had never been in an accident or sustained severe injuries. I had never suffered a medical emergency of any kind. How could my healthy body simply lose its ability to talk? Why is this happening to me?
In the following years, my family and I explored every resource possible, clinging to the hope that my stuttering would eventually vanish as mysteriously as it appeared. As time progressed though, I accepted that my stuttering would probably never disappear. After years of speech therapy and doctors’ appointments about my stuttering, I found myself seeking something more. While the speaking strategies I learned in speech therapy helped me temporarily, nothing I tried ever gave me long-term relief, unfortunately. Desperate to find answers, my family and I slowly began to discover articles unveiling new research about neurological causes for stuttering. We have always suspected neurology, but having that verified by experts offers us some hope that they may actually find the cause and cure someday. As this research continues to circulate, it really piques my interest and imagination. If my stuttering truly is neurological, then surely neurological treatment methods could be promising. Seeing more research dedicated to this condition has been encouraging, and I hope that it continues!
Earlier this month, with the advice of my parents, I finally decided to schedule an appointment with a neurologist. Never before had I consulted a specialist for my stuttering. Understanding how little-known stuttering still is even in the medical community, I was nervous about whether the neurologist would have enough familiarity with it to help me. To my surprise, he was extremely informed about stuttering. It was comforting to speak with a doctor who seemed to understand the condition inside and out. I am so grateful for his insights. I am also very thankful for all of the previous doctors who did everything they could to help. Everyone along this journey matters and is so deeply appreciated.
After listening to me speak for a few minutes, the neurologist was fairly confident that I have neurogenic stuttering. Other forms of stuttering do exist, called psychogenic and developmental stuttering. He explained that doctors can readily distinguish between neurogenic, developmental, and psychogenic just by listening to how someone stutters. He believes that a neurological disorder of some kind is causing me to stutter. One possibility he suggested is that my brain may be having mini seizures, either misfiring or sometimes completely cutting off signals to the speech-language area of my brain. Baffled by its sudden onset, the neurologist also asked me if I could remember any traumatic event prior to my stuttering. Considering the scope of my whole life, I remember one summer day when I was about nine or ten years old as one of the scariest days of my life. I nearly drowned in a river after getting stuck in a strong current. As a weak swimmer back then, I may have lost my life that day had it not been for an amazing lady on the shore who jumped in to save me. I truly believe that she was sent from God. Though I never completely sank, I slipped far enough below the surface several times to swallow huge amounts of water and to probably lose some oxygen. The neurologist was very intrigued by this event in my life in relation to my stuttering. He explained that since the speech-language area of the brain is so vulnerable and easily damaged, I quite possibly could have suffered some brain damage that day, not only because of the trauma of it all, but also because of even the slightest oxygen deprivation.
Thankfully I passed the preliminary neurological exam with no problems whatsoever, initially ruling out anything more serious. To explore more inside though, the neurologist ordered an MRI of my brain, which I had done last week. Now, I just patiently wait to receive the results. I am earnestly praying that the scan will reveal the cause of my stuttering, or that it will at least light the way to discovering more. While I have been battling some anxiety about the results, afraid that they will reveal something more serious, I am trying to find peace in the Lord and to trust Him. At the same time, I am eager to finally start investigating my stuttering more. After years of not understanding why I talk this way but learning to accept it as a gift from the Lord… there’s something so exciting about finding answers.
Well, I think that’s all for today, friends! Thank you for sticking with me through a longer post today. I wish you all the merriest Christmas of all, complete with loved family and friends, twinkling lights, and sweet remembrance of our Savior’s birth.
Love always, Makenzie